1-on-1 with Bears' John Fox: The man behind the coach


1-on-1 with Bears' John Fox: The man behind the coach

Bears coach John Fox was a defensive back at San Diego State, had a cup of offseason coffee with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after graduating in 1978, then began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at SDSU. In Part 2 of his conversation with Bears Insider John “Moon” Mullin, Fox shares how he’s dealt with the life, why he’s still coaching and how long he thinks it’s something he’ll be doing.

Q: With all the success you’ve had and at age 60, did you consider just calling it a career after you and the Denver Broncos agreed to end it?

A: I’ve always known exactly what I was going to do: I was going to play football as long as I could, and then I was going to coach. That got instilled in me being around role models and coaches that inspired me. Next to teaching school, I can’t think of anything that would be as gratifying for me.

In life, early on, you try to provide for your family and there’s a job you have to do. But at this point in my career, I don’t have to do it any more. As far as taking care of my family, I’ve done that. Now I do it because I want to. I love being with the guys, love just week to week, the old ‘Wide World of Sports’ mantra, ‘the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.’

Q: How about a “gap” year, regrouping? Did you and Robin think about taking a year or whatever off?

A: I would say I thought more about it after Carolina going to Denver than I did this time around. In either case, it wasn’t about the money. I was prepared to [skip a year]. But I’ve been in the league so long, you meet people, and I’d been with Pittsburgh, the Raiders, the Giants. Those were owners who weren’t some billionaires buying teams, who don’t really understand football. These people LIVED it.

[MORE: Check out Part 1 of CSN's exclusive interview with John Fox]

The Rooneys. Al Davis. The Maras. The McCaskeys. Halas. People who lived football.

And then Ryan [Pace]. He’s young but he’s been in the business for 14 years. Great people skills, good evaluator. A lot of people told me, don’t go to Denver. But now I’m Chicago. I love it.

Q: So then, where is home for you? You’ve got a home in Florida but where’s ‘home?’

A: Florida. You’ve got two coasts to choose from. Water’s warmer. You’ve got islands you can drive to by boat. No state tax. I’m on the water all the time.

Q: The life of a coach is one step above the military as far as constant movement and new “homes.” How hard has that part been?

A: You don’t do this without a stud wife. And I’ve got a stud wife AND stud kids. Really, I’ve spent my life raising other people’s kids. My wife has raised our kids. I don’t say I had no hand in it, but when you’re younger, busting it to get ahead in life. I still do it the same way I did 15 years ago – look at tape, evaluate players, that’s just how I do it.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Robin and the kids, they’re the ones that made the thing tick. I don’t care what coach; you have to have that.

Q: Do you set aside a “date night?”

A: Friday night. And it may not be just her and me. I may not have seen my kids awake all week. ‘Date night’ is a little easier now with the kids older; and my 15-year-old just says, ‘Dad, can you drop me off two miles away.’

You sign up for this, and we’re very well compensated. Your wife and children kinda do, but it wasn’t their choice. So whenever it’s rough, you feel worse for them, if that makes sense.

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Growing up, my Dad was a Navy SEAL would be gone for six months, we couldn’t even write him, we weren’t even allowed to know where he was. I think you grow up a little tougher like that. So when my wife complains about all of this, I tell her, ‘Hey, it was way worse than this.’ [laughs]

Q: Have you every thought of the point when you’ll give it up?

A: I haven’t hit that point yet. I’ll walk away when I do. And I don’t know if I’ll ever hit it [laughs]. I don’t know. I’ve had 8,000 coaches tell me, ‘If I’m doing this when I’m 60 or 65, punch me in the face.’ I’d’ve punched a lot of people in the face. Sid Gilman was one of them; he was 70. He retired for one year, then he said, ‘I got tired of my biggest decision every day being what time am I teeing off?’

When you do this for a living for most of your adult life, that excitement level is hard to match. It’s like a drug. Just the passion. That’s where I’m at. My agent, Bob LaMonte, was saying to me, ‘You know, you’re the only one of my [coaching] clients who’s been a head coach for three different teams. I never thought of that.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.


Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner.